History of Education in Minnesota: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Many Minnesotans pride themselves on the quality of the public education in the state. It is important to look back to the foundations of the state's education system. It really was not that long ago that Minnesota was just a territory with a couple of schools in St. Paul. Examining the amazing evolution of the schools themselves as well as the entire system is fascinating. As with the study of any history, this can also provide some valuable insight into how our current education problems might be solved. Despite Minnesota's stellar record of education in the state, it has been falling in national rankings. Meanwhile, the United States has been dramatically falling in international rankings. This FAQ provides some background on education in Minnesota, which in turn will help one to understand today's state of education.

How was education accomplished in Minnesota prior to it becoming a state?

The first school in MN was the post school at Fort Snelling (which has been maintained as a historical landmark).


The first school outside of the post was opened in 1835 on Lake Harriet. Missionaries, led by the Pond family and Reverend Jedediah D. Stevens, mainly worked with the Sioux Indians in the area. Following the Pond’s school, the Catholics opened a school for the Chippewa at Grand Portage.

The first school for white children opened in 1847, led by Thomas Williamson (he also was in part responsible for a Sioux missionary school). Williamson called for help and Harriet Bishop became St. Paul’s first teacher, with 36 students attending the first year.


She had moved from Vermont that same year. A fascinating character, Bishop was one of the first women to head West in order to teach, hoping to educate the children and improve the morality of the town in general. She also started the first Sunday school, which would later lead to the first Baptist Church. According to Zylpha S. Morgan in an article published for the Minnesota Historical Society, "St. Paul’s first teacher left her most indelible mark on the young people she guided and the organizations she founded that helped transform a raw river town into the capital city of Minnesota." In this same article, titled Harriet Bishop, Frontier Teacher, Morgan offers this wonderful description of Bishop and education in early Minnesota:

"Eventually Dr. Williamson’s letter reached the normal school at Albany and was put into the hands of Harriet Bishop, one of the young women in Miss Beecher’s class. The writer said he was living on the verge of civilization in the northwestern park of the United States in a territory he supposed would bear the name of Minnesota. He told of the need for a teacher in the settlement known as St. Paul, four miles from his mission at Kaposia. There were five stores, a dozen or more families, and probably thirty-six children of school age at St. Paul, he said. Room and board would be furnished by a family having four children, in return for the latter’s tuition. Dr. Williamson said that the teacher would have to forego the elegances and niceties of life in New England, and be willing to teach children of varied races and colors without prejudice, and he suggested that she bring her own school books, as there was no bookstore within three hundred miles. The effect of this letter on Harriet Bishop was decisive. When members of the class in Albany were asked who would go to far-off St. Paul, the young woman from Vermont answered unhesitatingly, 'I will go.'"

Bishop was one of the first teachers to head West in order to help formalize schooling on the frontier. By 1858, 481 teachers had been shipped off.

Minnesota became a territory in 1849. At that point there were basically three developed areas – Stillwater, St. Paul, and St. Anthony – with a total of four elementary schools. Immigrants began to come in greater numbers following the territorial grant. The common school district was established at this time in MN.

Many of the first schools were started by Christian missionaries. The first parochial school opened in St. Paul in 1851. The Catholic schools, which emerged after the large numbers of Irish and German immigrants in the 1850s, were generally the best organized and sufficiently funded. Very few schools besides the Catholic institutions survived the Panic of 1857.

By 1851 a State university was proposed and opened, but did not become officially recognized as a university until 1869. Baldwin school opened in St. Paul in 1853, followed quickly by Baldwin College (for men) in 1863. The college would change its name in 1874 to Macalester College. The Methodists opened Hamline University in 1854. In its first 12 years, the university graduated 14 women and 9 men. It survived the Panic despite having to suspend operation from 1869-1880. Gustavus would not open until 1862, four years after Minnesota became a state. St. John's and Carlton opened in 1864 and 1870, respectively.

Reverend Edward D. Neill, the first territorial Superintendent of Public Instruction, was one of the leaders in fostering education growth in the territory, after moving to MN in 1849. Territorial governor, future two-term governor and two-term U.S. senator Alexander Ramsay put a large emphasis on fostering a strong educational system in Minnesota:

"The subject of education, which has ever been esteemed of the first importance, especially in all new American communities, deserves, and I doubt not will receive, your earliest and most devoted care. From the pressure of other and more immediate wants, it is not to be expected that your school system should be very ample; yet it is desirable that whatever is done should be of a character that will readily adapt itself to the growth and increase of the country and not in future require a violent change of system."

Structurally, the townships were divided into districts (with at least 10 families in each). The first public school meeting was held in November of 1849 in a log schoolhouse in St. Paul. The federal land ordinance of 1785 made sure that each township set aside one plot of land for schooling facilities. Minnesota had two granted upon its acceptance as a territory. Public education was guaranteed royalties from regional natural resource production, as well as county taxes, primarily on liquor, and from criminal fines.

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How did education work after Minnesota became a state?

The state was created in the wake of the common school movement, which was started by Horace Mann in the first half of the 19th century. The movement focused on educating a larger percentage of the population, making education government funded and an equal opportunity, while also eliminating unqualified teachers. These principles had a significant effect on the formation of Minnesota's education system during its early statehood.

The state convention began July 13, 1857. One of the main debates surrounded the question of administering school funds and land grants. As mentioned above, the schools would be given a certain amount of money and tracts of land. Another key question surrounded local versus state versus federal aid. It began with adjusted county taxes based on the number of students living in the area, but soon after became more centralized with a statewide tax.


The original state constitution differentiated between "children" and "scholars." Scholars were the children who would be attending school. Though public schools existed, they were not intended to be mandatory. This contrasts sharply with the contemporary view of education, namely that every child should attend school.

The first legislative session began in 1858. It provided a system of public schools to be supported by the sale of school lands. It also established three State normal schools, later called States teachers' colleges. These would eventually open in Winona, Mankato and St. Cloud. Due to 19th century reform efforts, normal schools were created to train and educate high school graduates to become teachers. 

The state offered special, incentive-based aid to unique districts including those with better teachers, more modern school facilities, or certain advantages for long-term education. According to historian David Kiehle,

"This generous aid of the state has proven a marvelous stimulus to education. The amounts given have encouraged districts to make corresponding expenditures in schoolhouses and equipment, and instead of making the people dependent upon the state they have grown ambitious to do more for themselves."

State supervision was also quickly established. Edward Neill, who was the first territorial superintendent, was also the first State Superintendent of Public Instruction (1860-61). He helped implement district organization, a uniform series of textbooks and library funding. Teachers were also required to be licensed. "Special education" programs began in Minnesota as early as 1863 when a state school was opened which focused on the "deaf, dumb, and blind." As of 2010, there were over 127,000 students in MN special education programs.


The State High School Board was created in 1878, its stated function being, "to establish any necessary and suitable rules and regulations relating to examinations, reports and other proceedings under this act." This was changed in 1881 as the Board became more autonomous: "The High School Board shall have full discretionary power to consider and act upon applications of schools for state aid, and to prescribe the conditions upon which said aid shall be granted, and it shall be this duty to accept and aid such schools only as will, in its opinion, if aided, efficiently perform the service contemplated by law."

In the same year, state aid began to drastically expand. It was only given to high schools from 1878-1896, after which "graded schools" began to receive money. In 1899 "rural schools" were added; in 1900, "semi-graded schools"; in 1906, “rural schools of the second class"; and in 1912 "consolidated schools and rural schools of Class C." Between 1878 and 1916 the number of state funded schools jumped from 38 to 7,127. The state aid to individual schools rose from $500 in 1898 to $2,200 in 1913.

Of course, state funding did not come without certain requirements:

"First, that there shall be regular and orderly courses of study, embracing all the branches prescribed as prerequisite for admission to the collegiate department of the University of Minnesota, not lower than the third, or sub-freshmen class. Second, that the said school receiving pecuniary aid under this act, shall at all times permit the said board of commissioners, or any of them, to visit and examine the classes pursuing the same preparatory courses."

Coinciding with these requirements came additional support to aid local areas, particularly rural parts of the state. Teacher-training departments began to receive state aid in 1895. The Putnam Act (1909) required schools to provide additional classroom space for specific subjects. This act also made college education a requirement for any teacher, while also mandating that at least three teachers be on staff at each school. The Benson-Lee Act (1911) mandated that state funds be distributed to agricultural programs in high schools. The Smith-Hughes Act (1917) improved funding again for agricultural education, including equipment, travel opportunities and teacher salary. By 1963, the Vocational Education Act changed the agricultural education program to focus less on individual farming and more on agribusiness. It also allowed females to participate.

By the Progressive Era, Minnesota began to see statewide funding skyrocket, and by 1914 about one-fifth of rural schools in MN were receiving more in state aid than they were raising through local taxes. Moreover, the state's Annual Fund for education rose from contributing one three-hundredth of total school revenues in 1878 to about 11% in 1917. Most Minnesotans were in favor of such a trend, such as historian Frances Kelley Del Plaine:

"If education is a function of the state, it is evident that the support of schools can not be left entirely to the individual districts with their widely varying degrees of wealth and intelligence. The levying of a state school tax is a recognition of the right and duty of the state to provide public schools. Such a tax serves to insure certain moneys for every district. It is also a means for encouraging local reports to the state department. Properly disbursed, it should help to equalize the burdens of school support."

Early on in Minnesota education was funded by a compulsory country tax. This became a district tax by 1877 and ten years later a state tax. Interestingly, the tax was formally a county school tax of "1-mill" by state law. A "mill" refers to a percentage property tax. For example, if your property was assessed to be valued at $100,000 and there was a 1-mill school tax levied, your tax would amount to $100, or 0.1%. If the rate was 10-mill, $1000 would be taxed, or 1%. The state’s compulsory school taxes decreased from 2.5-mills upon Minnesota’s founding as a state in 1858 to 1-mill by 1873. The move was widely criticized, for despite the sharp rise in property values during the state’s first 15 years of existence, the difference was not enough to compensate for the drop in the rate of taxation. Much like today, there emerged a general complaint regarding underfunded schools, particularly those in rural regions. The idea behind the plan was to prevent one area or district from paying for the schools in another. 

Despite the move to statewide taxation for education being quite popular, some strongly criticized the decision arguing that state aid going to rural areas lessened local incentive to maintain or improve their own schools. Rather, such areas would come to rely too heavily on outside taxation funding. As Del Plaine argues, this type of taxation "harmed the schools...by encouraging the growth of local indifference to the schools and their support." He sums up the early debate over education concisely:

"There is no more fundamental problem in American education than the financial one."

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What does the Minnesota Constitution say about education?

The Minnesota state constitution was signed on October 13, 1857 and later revised on November 5, 1974 (the version seen below). There are a total of 14 articles including one devoted to the Minnesota Bill of Rights. Three of the articles in part deal with the subject of education in the state.


Article XIII; Sec. 1: "Uniform system of public schools – The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state."

Article XIII; Sec. 2: "Prohibition as to aiding sectarian school –  In no case shall any public money or property be appropriated or used for the support of schools wherein the distinctive doctrines, creeds or tenets of any particular Christian or other religious sect are promulgated or taught."

Article XIII, Section 1 simply establishes the fact that there will be a public school system in the state. Section 2 concerns religious aspects in schools, prohibiting any state taxpayer money from going to schools with a specific religious affiliation.

Article X, Section 1: "Power of taxation; exemptions; legislative powers – The power of taxation shall never be surrendered, suspended or contracted away. Taxes shall be uniform upon the same class of subjects and shall be levied and collected for public purposes, but public burying grounds, public school houses, public hospitals, academies, colleges, universities, all seminaries of learning, all churches, church property, houses of worship, institutions of purely public charity, and public property used exclusively for any public purpose, shall be exempt from taxation except as provided in this section. There may be exempted from taxation personal property not exceeding in value $200 for each household, individual or head of a family, and household goods and farm machinery as the legislature determines. The legislature may authorize municipal corporations to levy and collect assessments for local improvements upon property benefited thereby without regard to cash valuation. The legislature by law may define or limit the property exempt under this section other than churches, houses of worship, and property solely used for educational purposes by academies, colleges, universities and seminaries of learning."

Article X, Section 1 grants the state the power to tax individuals and businesses, but mentions a list of exempt entities, including all public schools.

Article XI, Section 8: "Permanent school fund; source; investment; board of investment – The permanent school fund of the state consists of (a) the proceeds of lands granted by the United States for the use of schools within each township, (b) the proceeds derived from swamp lands granted to the state, (c) all cash and investments credited to the permanent school fund and to the swamp land fund, and (d) all cash and investments credited to the internal improvement land fund and the lands therein. No portion of these lands shall be sold otherwise than at public sale, and in the manner provided by law. All funds arising from the sale or other disposition of the lands, or income accruing in any way before the sale or disposition thereof, shall be credited to the permanent school fund. Within limitations prescribed by law, the fund shall be invested to secure the maximum return consistent with the maintenance of the perpetuity of the fund. The principal of the permanent school fund shall be perpetual and inviolate forever. This does not prevent the sale of investments at less than the cost to the fund; however, all losses not offset by gains shall be repaid to the fund from the interest and dividends earned thereafter. The net interest and dividends arising from the fund shall be distributed to the different school districts of the state in a manner prescribed by law."

This section was the most controversial during the state convention. It established land grants for each school in each district. When Minnesota became a territory, each district was granted two plots of land for schools. When Minnesota became a state, some called for the elimination of land grants given to schools, while others believed they were necessary to ensure that children across the state would have access to a local school. This debate correlated with the argument over the percent of taxes each person would have to pay for their local school. These issues are further discussed in the first two parts of this FAQ.

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What major education reforms have taken place in Minnesota’s more recent history?

Southeast Alternatives Project (1971-1979) – The stated primary goals of this project were: "to provide a choice of educational alternatives for students, parents, and faculty; to provide a K-12th continuum of learning experiences; to encourage and provide opportunities for parents, students, staff, administrators, and faculty to participate in the educational and decision making process through decentralized administration; and to incorporate promising educational practices within the curriculum and develop experimental programs." Students were given a choice of four education models: free school (taxpayer-funded, free to attend, not locally run, and non-discriminatory), open education (eliminates as many barriers to entry as possible, such as academic standards), continuous progress (a cooperative approach, with multi-aged classrooms and a "family-like learning environment"), and contemporary education (focus on classmate cooperation and individual discovery rather than strictly teacher instruction). Though the program was short-lived, it set the stage for further alternative educational reforms in the state.

Contracted Alternative Schools (began 1972) – These programs continue today, providing extra schooling opportunities for those students who have "not found success in the traditional school model." Such schools paved the way for the foundation of charter schools and more educational freedom. Depending on the specific grant a school receives, its organization and administration can differ slightly from other alternative schools.

Council on Quality Education (1973) – This organization was established entirely independent of the MN Department of Education. Its goal was to promote innovative ideas within the struggling, centralized education system in the state.

Post-Secondary Enrollment Options Act (1985) – This has been one of Minnesota's most successful and useful education reform policies. Presently, thousands of motivated students across the state take advantage of this Act by receiving free college credits while still attending their local high school. The University of Minnesota admits 500 PSEO students each year.

Open Enrollment (began 1987) – This was quite controversial at the time, allowing students to enroll in any public school in the state no matter the district of his/her residence. Advocates argue that choice helps ensure a higher quality of education by adding the possibility of failure into the public school system. This would theoretically partially end the "monopoly" that public schools were given. But opponents of open enrollment fear that its goals will not materialize, but will instead harm the private school system. Despite its free-market principles, allowing open enrollment may strengthen unions and lead to the consolidation of districts.

The Minnesota Association of Charter Schools was formed in 1991 – See FAQ on Charter Schools

Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs – The MAAP was started in the 1980s in order to provide quality education to a greater spectrum of students. The number of students in alternative education has grown from about 4,000 in 1988 to about 150,000 in 2009.

No Child Left Behind (2002) – Signed by President Bush, this law most notably helped establish a standards-based education system. It requires numerous yearly state assessments of students. The law also significantly increased national and state education spending. The benchmark for every school in the nation became its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Given the students' scores an AYP is determined and subsequent action, if necessary, is taken from there. The law's critics, the number of which has grown since its inception, claim that the program is far too uniform. It diminishes the positive impact teachers can make on their students and eliminates classroom creativity and innovation. Supporters of the law argue that because of the poor state of American education, more federal regulation is necessary.

Race to the Top (2009) - This education reform program was part of President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). ARRA provided $4.35 billion to the Race to the Top fund. According to the U.S. Department of Education,

"Race to the Top will reward States that have demonstrated success in raising student achievement and have the best plans to accelerate their reforms in the future. These States will offer models for others to follow and will spread the best reform ideas across their States, and across the country."

Effectively, this program was a national state-by-state contest, with each state vying for the most federal cash. In the end 11 states were granted between $75 and $700 million. Minnesota finished 20th in the first round and neglected to submit an entry into the second round. The state received no money from the program. Former Governor Pawlenty had a goal of obtaining over $300 million from the contest.

Like No Child Left Behind, the Race to Top faced strong criticism. In some ways it again redefined the national standards in education. The plethora of guidelines and regulations made it difficult to determine the best course of action to receive any of the "prize" money. This doomed Minnesota, which many believed would be a front-runner because of the strong and established charter system in the state. As Derek Wallbank said, writing for the Minnesota Post, "It might be easier for everyone concerned if Minnesota employed Sherlock Holmes to decipher the clues contained in the federal Race to the Top funding rubric."

Omnibus E-12 Education Act (2011) - This Act highlighted the upcoming state budget for education, guaranteeing nearly $15 billion for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

In early 2012, Minnesota was granted a waiver from the requirements imposed by No Child Left Behind. This gives the education system more freedom and flexibility away from federal mandates. Governor Mark Dayton stated that under NCLB, "teachers have been forced to teach to tests, which do not accurately measure either individual student or school progress." The Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius added, "Minnesota is a national leader in test scores, yet we are still faced with one of the widest achievement gaps in the country."

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What are some key facts and figures on Minnesota's education funding and enrollment?

The graph and chart below show several interesting trends since 1960. The baby boomers account for the sharp rise in enrollment in the 60s, but the sharp decline in public school enrollment around 1970-71 might come as a bit of a surprise. 1971 was perhaps Minnesota's biggest year for education reform and has been subsequently coined the Minnesota Miracle. The more recent rise in public school enrollment can in part be attributed to the formation of alternative forms of education, which went into full swing in the early 90s.




Minnesota has steadily increased state funding for education in the last several decades. The most noticeable hike in state spending occurred during the beginning of the younger Bush administration due in large part to the passage of No Child Left Behind.


The map below depicts the different school districts in Minnesota. Since Minnesota became a state, one of the largest obstacles has been creating an efficient and fair district system in which the needed amount of funding could be appropriated throughout the state. Comparing St. Louis County and the Brooklyn Center district makes it easy to see some problems that might arise from districting inequalities.


The following two charts again show some of the funding distribution problems in both traditional public schools (chart 1) and charter schools (chart 2). Additionally, many have raised concerns about the seemingly excessive per student spending with one district spending over $24,000/student.





The next two graphs depict the rise in Minnesotan enrollment in alternative education programs. Homeschooling became increasingly popular in the 90s, while traditional public schooling sharply declined in the latter half of the decade.




Finally, this graph looks specifically at the student demographics in alternative education versus traditional education.


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What are charter schools and how did they come about?

A charter school is an independent public school. It receives state funding, but operates outside of the district board of education. Basically, it is a public school that is simply in its own, individual district.

A charter school can be started by anyone, though a charter plan must be written, proposed and accepted by the state. Once granted a charter, the school has increased autonomy over that of a normal public school, but also increased accountability due to the fact that no minimum attendance is guaranteed. Rather, families have the choice to opt for the charter school over the other public schools in the area.

It is this principle of choice that helped foster the original idea for charter schools and continues to drive their development today. Instead of parents and students feeling trapped with the limited number of options for free education, the charter system adds more choices and opens the door for unique competitors to enter the field of education.

The charter system also creates a more market-based system of education, primarily because success is based on consumer demand. With the possibility of failure and the need to attract consumers, charter schools often demonstrate the success which comes with the incentive to innovate and provide a high-quality product. Moreover, the autonomy which a charter school receives allows it to avoid some of the bureaucracy which plagues such a large portion of government-run institutions, including traditional public schools. Critics of the charter system argue that education is not a realm in which the free-market is necessarily appropriate. Currently, this argument is echoed by the proponents for a national health care system.

Though charter schools have greater independence, there are still significant differences between the charter system and private schools. Charter schools must admit any applicant if there are available slots, or hold a lottery (which is often the case) if demand is greater than the school’s capacity. Charter schools are also prohibited from charging any tuition.

The charter school laws and regulations vary between states. The primary difference is found in its funding. In Minnesota, charter schools are only granted about 75% of the funding which is given to the geographically surrounding or demographically similar public schools. This is especially problematic for start-up costs and facility construction for non-conversion (a conversion school is one which switched from public to charter while maintaining its capital and facilities) charter schools.


Recently, some have proposed a voucher system in addition to charter schools. Essentially, this goes a step further in granting parents and students more educational choice. Vouchers are equally distributed to families in lieu of taxes that family would have paid for public education. The vouchers could then be redeemed at any school, including private institutions.

Though not universally the case by any means, charter schools have been quite successful, creating a healthy pressure on local school systems where they are present. Very few have closed, and in many cases, charter schools have been flooded with massive numbers of applicants. Davis Guggenheim directed a critically-acclaimed documentary in 2010 titled "Waiting for Superman." The film depicts the current charter school successes and troubles, particularly the increasing demand for them in many of America’s poor urban areas. Madeline Sackler directed a very similar 2010 film called "The Lottery," which focused on four students in the New York school system.

Minnesota has been at the forefront of charter school development. In fact, Minnesota passed the first charter school law in 1991. Similar charter laws have since been extended to 40 states. The first charter school in Minnesota was Bluffview Montessori. It was previously a private school, but, after several years of proposals, legal battles, and new legislation, it opened as a charter school in the spring of 1993.

According to The Center for Education Reform, there are 161 charter schools in Minnesota with a total of over 30,000 students enrolled. The Center also ranked Minnesota as the top charter school state in the nation, trailing only the District of Columbia in overall grade. California has the most charter schools and the highest enrollment. There are nearly 1,000 schools with over 400,000 students enrolled. The Los Angeles area alone has over 200 charter schools.


Minnesota won the Innovations in American Government Award in 2000 for its development of the charter system.

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What is open enrollment, why did it develop, and what are its impacts?

Open Enrollment was part of the educational movement inspired by the principles of the free-market. The decline in America’s education quality and progress coupled with the public’s desire to have more choice in the realm of education led to significant education reform over the last several decades, including open enrollment, charter schools, post-secondary options, and other part-time alternative programs.

Minnesota has been a nationwide leader in educational reform. It was the first state to adopt open enrollment and also the first state to obtain charter status.

The idea for open enrollment is often equated with the proposals for tax credits or vouchers, with all of the reform ideas being categorized as part of the "School Choice" movement, but it is more limited as it only applies to public schools. Under a voucher system, parents and students would have the option to use the money at a private school.

Thus far, open enrollment in Minnesota has had its biggest impact on urban areas, particularly in the Minneapolis school district. While some attribute it to racial motives and "white flight" from urban centers, others believe that the impact on Minneapolis public schools is simply a sign of their inferior education standards and quality.

Open enrollment over the years has enjoyed increasingly bipartisan support. Those in favor of more educational choice believe that this is a stepping stone toward a voucher system or perhaps even more privatization. Such support comes from both those who wish to see education become more of an incentive-based business as well as those seeking religious freedom within the education system. At the same time, many supporters of a strong public school system contend that open enrollment will satisfy parents' wishes for choice, strongly diminishing any calls for a voucher or tax credit system.

Yet any of these proposals for educational reform come with quiet, and at times unforeseen drawbacks. The biggest of these is transportation. Currently, those in attendance at charter schools are guaranteed busing, no matter one's residence. This is not the case with those families who opt for a public school outside of their district. This particularly limits lower-class and single parent families and, some argue, has further increased the education achievement gap.

Another criticism has been its overall effectiveness and impact. Prior to open enrollment beginning, students were able to transfer school districts with their local districts' permission. What is more, the current system comes with numerous restrictions (e.g. the ability of local school boards to deny students a transfer), which often prevent any sort of radical change to a school district. Finally, some argue that open enrollment undermines the local aspect of education: if schools are consolidated and large numbers of students move outside of their districts, funding will be forced to come more from the state or federal level.

Open enrollment and similar educational reforms are nuanced issues and have been at the forefront of the educational debate since the 1980s in Minnesota. Though problems in the education system certainly still persist in Minnesota, the state has helped lead the way for other states in finding alternative and innovative forms of public education.

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How does standardized testing work?

Standardized tests have grown rapidly in number the last several decades despite rising concern that such tests are not effective indicators or motivators in a child's education. The biggest complaint has regularly come from teachers, who are forced to run their classroom in a way that simply prepares students for such examinations. Most teachers believe this is not the ideal method for learning.

Yet, it remains the only universal means of comparing individual students, schools, districts, counties or states. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed in 1965, requiring standardized testing in all public schools. Shortly thereafter the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) was established in 1988 to write and administer standardized tests across the country. In 2001 No Child Left Behind put additional emphasis on standardized tests by forcing every school which receives Title I federal funding to complete the NAEP tests.

Students are tested in 4th and 8th grade in reading, math, and science. This allows schools to both compare scores with other schools or states and also note progression or regression in its students' performance. The next question outlines Minnesota's scoring and compares it with the national average. Keep in the mind the discrepancies between test performance based on race. Such instances have been coined "achievement gaps" and have been key factors in the American education debate.

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How does Minnesota rank against other states?

In 2010, Minnesota's average ACT score (22.9) was the highest among the 27 states in which a majority of college-bound students took the test.

The overall ACT scoring average was 22.6 (meaning that this score included the scores from those who would not attend college the following year), significantly higher than the national average of 21.


Seventy percent of 4th graders read at or above a basic reading level; the national average is 34%. In the same category for 8th grade, Minnesotans scored 82%; the national average is just 43%.

In math, Minnesota ranks third for 4th grade and second for 8th grade (89% and 83% respectively are at or above basic math levels).

In 2011, Minnesota ranked second, behind Massachusetts, in math and science, based on the Science and Engineering Readiness Index (SERI).

But other sources have Minnesota ranked quite lower. In 2011 Education Week gave Minnesota a "C" making it 36th in the nation in overall education (the highest grade was a "B+"). Math and Science were the only high points for MN public education, according to this report. MN ranked 16th on the same report for 2009. The American Legislative Exchange Council ranks Minnesota 18th overall.

Disregarding the state ranking comparison, the discrepancy between the Minneapolis public school system and the rest of the metro area is becoming quite glaring.


Here are Minnesota's 2011 statistics for 4th grade math (the averages given are national):

By race:

At or above basic level – White: 94%; Black: 64%; Hispanic: 73%; Asian: 88% (Average – 91, 66, 72, 91)

At or above proficient – White: 60%; Black: 23%; Hispanic: 28%; Asian: 57% (52, 17, 24, 62)

At advanced – White: 14%; Black: 3%; Hispanic: 2%; Asian: 16% (9,1,2, 20)

By gender:

At or above basic – Male: 88%; Female: 88% (Average – 82, 82)

At or above proficient – Male: 54%; Female: 52% (41, 39)

At Advanced – Male: 13%; Female: 11% (7, 6)

By reduced/free lunch:

At or above basic – Eligible: 78%; Not eligible: 94% (Average – 73, 92)

At or above proficient – Eligible: 33%; Not eligible: 65% (24, 57)

At advanced – Eligible: 3%; Not eligible: 17% (2,12)


At or above basic – ELL: 67%; Not ELL: 90% (Average – 58, 85)

At or above proficient – ELL: 25%; Not ELL: 56% (14, 43)

At advanced – ELL: 2%; Not ELL: 13% (1, 7)

For 8th grade math:

By race:

At or above basic – White: 89%; Black: 55%; Hispanic: 59%; Asian: 87% (Average – 83, 50, 60, 85)

At or above proficient – White: 55%; Black: 18%; Hispanic: 18%; Asian: 63% (43, 13, 20, 55)

At advanced – White: 16%; Black: 1%; Hispanic: 3%; Asian: 31% (10, 1, 3, 22)

By gender:

At or above basic – Male: 72%; Female: 70% (Average – 72, 72)

At or above proficient – Male: 33%; Female: 29% (34, 33)

At advanced: Male: 7%; Female: 5% (9, 7)

By reduced/free lunch:

At or above basic: Eligible: 68%; Not eligible: 90% (Average – 59, 84)

At or above proficient: Eligible: 26%; Not eligible: 58% (19, 47)

At advanced: Eligible: 4%; Not eligible: 18% (2, 13)


At or above basic – ELL: 42%; Not ELL: 85% (Average – 28, 75)

At or above proficient – ELL: 8%; Not ELL: 50% (5, 35)

At advanced: ELL: 1%; Not ELL: 14% (1, 8)

Here are Minnesota 2011 statistics for 4th grade reading:

By race:

At or above basic – White: 78%; Black: 44%; Hispanic: 45%; Asian: 63% (Average – 77, 49, 50, 79)

At or above proficient – White: 42%; Black: 16%; Hispanic: 12%; Asian: 32% (42, 26, 18, 49)

At advanced - White: 10%; Black: 3%; Hispanic: 2; Asian: 10% (10, 2, 2, 17)

By gender:

At or above basic – Male: 67%; Female: 73% (Average – 63, 70)

At or above proficient – Male: 33%; Female: 38% (30, 35)

At advanced – Male: 7%; Female: 9% (6, 9)

By free/reduced lunch:

At or above basic – Eligible: 51%; Not eligible: 82% (Average – 52, 82)

At or above proficient – Eligible: 17%; Not eligible: 46% (18, 48)

At advanced – Eligible: 3%; Not eligible: 11% (2, 13)


At or above basic – ELL: 30%; Not ELL: 74% (Average – 30, 70)

At or above proficient – ELL: 5%; Not ELL: 39% (7, 35)

At advanced – ELL: almost 0%; Not ELL: 9% (1, 8)

For 8th grade reading:

By race:

At or above basic – White: 86%; Black: 58%; Hispanic: 69%; Asian: 74% (Average – 84, 58, 63, 82)

At or above proficient – White: 44%; Black: 15%; Hispanic: 23%; Asian: 37% (41, 14, 18, 46)

At advanced – White: 4%; Black 1%; Hispanic: 2%; Asian:  6% (4, 1, 1, 8)

By gender:

At or above basic – Male: 79%; Female: 84% (Average – 70, 79)

At or above proficient – Male: 35%; Female: 44% (27, 36)

At advanced – Male: 3%; Female: 5% (2, 4)

By free/reduced lunch:

At or above basic – Eligible: 68%; Not eligible: 87% (Average – 63, 85)

At or above proficient – Eligible: 22%; Not eligible: 47% (18, 44)

At advanced – Eligible: 1%; Not eligible: 5% (1, 5)


At or above basic – ELL: 38%; Not ELL: 83% (Average – 29, 77)

At or above proficient – ELL: 6%; Not ELL 41% (3, 33)

At advanced – ELL: almost 0%; Not ELL 4% (almost 0, 3)

Library Topic

How does the United States currently stack up against the world?

In 2010 the world education rankings were released by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). The study tested about 470,000 14-year olds in reading, math, and science. Sixty-five countries were represented, including all of the wealthiest and most developed nations.

South Korea and Finland were the overall winners. Korea scored first, first, and third in reading, math, and science, respectively, while Finland scored second, second and first in those three categories. Canada, New Zealand and Japan rounded out the top 5. The United States scored 14th, 25th and 17th. It was even outperformed by former Soviet satellites Poland and Estonia.


Moreover, demonstrating the inefficiency in America's current education system, when breaking down the spending on education for each nation, the United States spends the most money per point in its average PISA test results.


Education has been one of the most important political and cultural issues throughout American history. No matter one's beliefs on the underlying problems or possible solutions, the most critical fact is clear: the United States is lagging farther and farther behind the rest of the industrialized world. As poorer nations put more emphasis on the education of their youth, it seems that unless there is a dramatic change in American education, it will only continue its descent in world ranking.

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Library Topic
Library Topic: Charter Schools
Library Topic: Homeschooling
Library Topic: Private Schools
Library Topic: School Choice

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"Citing a study that concluded some Minneapolis school administrators were underpaid, district Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson approved more than $270,000 in pay raises this summer for 35 central office administrators.

Johnson's announcement Friday surprised some school board members who said they weren't aware that their approval of a consultants' compensation study in May meant...

"Here’s a little data behind Tom Weber’s MPR story on the improvement in state scores on the ACT standardized college entrance exam.

Below is a chart showing that Minnesota tops the states where the majority of students take the test. (Seven out of 10 students took it in Minnesota.)

Other states scored higher — topped by Massachusetts with 24.0 — but those were usually ones where...

"The Department of Agricultural Education at the University of Minnesota was established in 1910. D. D. Mayne was the first principal and he provided advice to high school agriculture teachers in the state. Mayne was the only staff member from 1910-1912. The program became part of the College of Education in 1912."

"Bernadeia Johnson is waxing enthusiastic about the first day of school. It marks the start of her sophomore year on the job and she has a theme for what she wants the academic year that begins this morning to be about.

'We have to create a culture of yes,' she said. 'I’m asking people to figure out, how do you get to yes?'

The superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools, that...

"A north Minneapolis school at Olson Memorial Hwy. and Humboldt Avenue has demographics that seem a sure predictor of our state's most intractable education problem. The student population there is 99 percent black and 91 percent poor, and about 70 percent of the children come from single-parent families.

Such 'racial isolation' is widely considered a formula for defeat—a hallmark of...

"These schools showed the highest percentage of students scoring at grade level or better, despite having a high number of children living in poverty. Poverty has a high correlation to low student achievement."

"Black students are far more likely than their peers to be suspended or expelled from school. A U.S. Department of Education report released last week includes new data from the 2009-10 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) showing that Black students in Minneapolis face harsher discipline than their White, Latino, Asian and Native American counterparts."

"For years, a number of reformers have been urging that parents be permitted to choose their children's schools and that the budget of each school depend on the parents' choices. Advocates of educational choice argue that injecting competition into a moribund public school monopoly will compel schools to respond to parents' demands and improve the quality of education. Some examples of choice...

"Continuous Progress is an alternative program available at Countryside Elementary and Highlands Elementary. It is a blend of innovative new ideas, and the best of tried and true traditional practices in elementary schools. The Continuous Progress Program is primarily defined by four features:

  • Continuity over a five-year period
  • Multiaged classrooms and 'families'
  • ...

"On Thursday, Sept. 23, Minnesota Meeting invited the major parties' gubernatorial candidates to share and debate their visions and policy ideas on Minnesota's Preschool-12th Grade education system. The event was co-sponsored by the Itasca Project and the Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi Foundation for Children."

"So there I was, in late February, a lifelong, die-hard progressive DFL mom from Minneapolis, sitting in the governor's office with Rep. Branden Petersen, a die-hard conservative Republican dad from Coon Rapids.

We were there to see if Gov. Mark Dayton would consider signing Petersen's bill to get rid of 'last in, first out' (LIFO), a law that forces school districts to make teacher...

"During the 2008-09 school year, Minnesota schools will receive an average of $9,063 per student in general education revenue from state and local sources. But every teacher, student and parent knows that no district is average. That's certainly true when it comes to state and local funding.

- State funding alone ranges from roughly $7,000 to $11,000 per student.
- Locally...

This brief article reports on the relatively unheard of education philosophy of "Direct Instruction." Cheney highlights its academic success in urban schools especially, a fact attributed to the devotion the "Direct Instruction" method pays to the teacher-centered philosophy of education. Although disliked and ignored by those who hold to the student-centered philosophy of education, Cheney...

"One hundred fifty years ago Harriet E. Bishop traveled by steamer up the Mississippi River to what was to become the Territory of Minnesota. A doer and mover, this single woman arrived in July 1847 to start a school and stayed to begin many early social, religious, and educational endeavors. She is buried in St. Paul's Oakland Cemetery, final resting place of contemporaries such as Governors...

"Many have asked how Minnesota got so many educational initiatives under way often prior to actions in other parts of the country. This brief paper takes a look at some of the developments that shaped our current systems of education in Minnesota.

A report prepared by the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Education, 1967 had a startling and somewhat embarrassing sentence in its summary...

"The mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis could take control of their city's school districts under a bill approved by the House Education Reform Committee on Thursday night.

Supporters say mayoral control of schools has worked in other large cities across the nation, giving urban districts stable leadership from mayors who usually have longer tenure than superintendents, greater...

"This article describes our use of a summer reading program with elementary-school students reading below grade level in North Minneapolis, and reports on the effectiveness of interventions designed to improve reading fluency in these students. The research on which this article is based was funded by CURA’s Northside Seed Grant program."

"The achievement gap didn't happen overnight. But it has to be closed sooner, not later. It will cost money. It will take commitment. It will take the work of many diverse groups from the state Legislature to community groups to teachers and their unions to school districts to families and individuals. We owe it to our children and to the future of the state to make the effort."

"Sarah Johnson's work begins long before the school bell rings.

First up is a meeting with a fellow teacher to talk about how a lesson was paced. Did you finish before the class was over? Did students have a chance to ask questions? Did they seem interested?

As one of nine teachers trained to evaluate first-year educators in St. Paul Public Schools, it's her job to identify the...

"Much was made of the 2010 MCA II math test results for 11th graders, the first such standardized testing for the Eastern Carver County School District (District 112) since the opening of Chanhassen High School. The test results showed an alarming 27-point gap between the two schools that caused significant community reaction and action by the district to improve math performance at Chaska...

"The tentative contract agreement between the Minneapolis Public Schools and the local teachers union adds four school days to the calendar, a union official said on Monday.

Other highlights include a minimum of two days for teacher preparation before school starts and class size targets at 16 struggling schools."

"Almost half of Minnesota's schools will shed the 'failing' label under a new plan that state leaders say will cut the achievement gap while giving struggling schools the flexibility they need.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education approved waiver requests from Minnesota and nine other states, freeing their schools from the 'No Child Left Behind' mandate that requires 100...

"How does Minnesota rank among the states for its performance on public schools?

Here's information about how Minnesota ranks on the 16th annual Report Card on Education, published by the American Legislative Exchange Council."

"Minnesota puts more of its education funding per student into the classroom and spends more on district administration when compared with most other states.

But the state spends less on principals and student support services."

"Minnesota's public school students are among the most successful in the nation. Take a look at the measures below.

ACT scores are among the highest

  • Minnesota's average composite score of 22.9 was the highest in the nation among the 27 states in which more than half the college-bound students took the test in 2010.
  • Minnesota students’ average score of 22.6 remains...

"The United States Congress passed an enabling act on February 26, 1857, that permitted the voters of Minnesota Territory to decide if they wanted to become a state. Among other provisions, this act called for a constitutional convention to draft a constitution that would be the foundation for state government. At an election on June 1, 1857, Minnesota voters elected delegates to this...

"The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments – Series II (MCA-IIs) are the standardized tests in reading, math, and science that public schools in Minnesota give to students. The state uses the tests to see how well schools are teaching the state academic standards and grade-level benchmarks for the standards.

But what do these test results mean to your child and how can you use the...

"Minneapolis teachers have ratified a new two-year contract that raises their pay in exchange for working a longer school year and that clears away some of the impediments their union says hamper teaching."

"Tracking students — the process by which students are put into a curriculum track based on their achievement level — used to be the mode of operation for many schools. Tracking can occur in many forms, including gifted and talented programs, honors programs, magnets, and any other euphemism for putting the 'smart' kids all together. One problem, of course, is that often it's the kids who come...

"The PSEO Program allows high school juniors and seniors to take classes on a college campus or online for both high school and college credit. The costs for tuition and required textbooks are subsidized by the State of Minnesota, and the program offers high school students the opportunity to experience life on a college campus."

"It might be easier for everyone concerned if Minnesota employed Sherlock Holmes to decipher the clues contained in the federal Race to the Top funding rubric. He'd sift through the Department of Education's guidelines and tell everyone how 'elementary' the criterion of 'Ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals' was.

As is, the amateur detectives at the state...

"It is generally agreed that urban public schools and school systems need to radically change how they are governed. Proponents of school choice believe that empowering families with educational options will promote such a change, because it presupposes that schools will reform to increase their attractiveness.

In fact, choice has been widely adopted.

Hardly a state in the United...

"Eric Mahmoud has proven he can produce high test scores with low-income black elementary students on the North Side. He's done it at a private school. He's done it at charter schools.

Now in his most ambitious undertaking to date, the founder of Harvest Prep is seeking the chance to clone his success under a performance-based contract with Minneapolis Public Schools.

The school...

"Once upon a time we had public schools and private schools. Now there are site-governed schools, contract alternative schools, charter schools, and the list goes on. Charter schools are public but they’re not part of a district. Site-governed schools are part of a district, but they don’t follow all the district’s rules. Private schools are an alternative to public schools, but they’re not...

"In the new information economy, children in pursuit of their dreams need education like never before. Yet the high school drop-out rate among poor American children is twice that of middle-class kids, and ten times that of wealthy children. In Minneapolis, the majority of public school students are poor, and most are failing standardized tests. A lawsuit over the adequacy of the Minneapolis...

"In recently released rankings of how states' primary education systems are preparing students for careers in engineering, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Jersey top the list. Mississippi trails as the worst in the country, following West Virginia and Louisiana.

The Science and Engineering Readiness Index (SERI) measures how high school students are performing in physics and calculus...

"Elementary and middle schools across Minnesota saw a sharp dip in scores on the statewide math tests this year, a drop that educators chalk up to a tougher exam that students took for the first time.

Schools got better news from the reading tests, where student performance improved slightly."

"Among the many accountability reforms enacted to Minnesota's charter school law in 2009 were two specific provisions that addressed the cost of authorizing.

The first provision established a new fee structure and significantly increased potential oversight fees paid by schools to authorizers. The increase phases in over a four year period and will result in over $3 million dollars per...

Summary of remarks by Wayne Jennings regarding the history of Minnesota education.

"The first educational institution in Minneapolis was started by Rev. J.D. Stevens on the shores of Lake Harriet in 1834. It was for children, including those from Cloud Man's band of Mdewakanton Dakota and from Fort Snelling. By 1849, in St. Anthony, the first private or subscription schools opened. Then in 1851-52, a school was opened on the west side of the river by Mary Schofield."

"The Minnesota Miracle of 1971 resulted from a ten-year effort to restructure Minnesota's fiscal policy. Major contributors to the effort were Paul Gilje, then research director of the Citizens League; Representative Charles R. Weaver of Anoka; the Metropolitan Council; the 1967-1971 Republican legislatures; and state Senator Wendell Anderson, the 1970 Democratic gubernatorial candidate,...

"Back in 2001, when the federally mandated No Child Left Behind initiative became law, most educators knew it would only be a matter of time.

Whether it was two years down the line or 10 years down the line, their school would almost certainly be impacted by sanctions stemming from the lofty initiative, which calls for all students to be 100 percent proficient in reading and math by...

"Elina Wennerlund likes her new high school just fine. The Washburn High School freshman has gone out for soccer, cross-country skiing and jazz choir.

It's classes that bother her. Too many of them are too easy. Elina often finishes her work early. 'Sometimes, we're just sitting there,' she said.

As the Minneapolis School District reaches the second year of driving for increased...

"Although it may imply so, a normal school is actually not for average students. A normal school, also known as a teachers' college, is a school that trains teacher, generally for the primary, or elementary, grades. The name was developed from French to indicate that a normal school was intended to be a model. Most likely it developed from a lesser known definition of the word normal:...

Chart or Graph

"The District made Adequate Yearly Progress on attendance (93.24%) in 2011 based on the 2009-10 attendance rate for the All Students group."

This chart details the graduation rate at Minneapolis' seven high schools. Taken together, the entire district was not able to achieve a 50% graduation rate.

"In the 2008-09 school year, African American students in Minneapolis failed to achieve high reading growth."

In the 2008-09 school year, white students in Minneapolis achieved high reading growth. The same year shows a different result for their African American counterparts.

This chart demonstrates the MCA-II reading proficiency gap between White and Hispanic students in various Minnesota school districts.

This chart demonstrates the MCA-II/MTELL math proficiency gap between White and Hispanic students in various Minnesota school districts. For Minneapolis, the proficiency gap is nearly 50%.

This chart demonstrates the MCA-II reading proficiency gap between White and African American students in various Minnesota school districts. For Minneapolis, the proficiency gap is over 50%.

This chart describes the average statistics of a Minneapolis kindergarten classroom. In 2010, the average class size was 23.7 children.

This chart shows how many schools in the Minneapolis Public School district made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in the 2007-2011 time period.

Minneapolis is far behind districts in the Western Suburbs.

"Since 1987, when alternative programs were formally recognized in Minnesota law, enrollment (including elementary, middle, and secondary students) has climbed from 4,050 to an estimated 180,000 students today."

This chart shows the dramatic achievement gap between the various ethnicities in the Minneapolis Public Schools.

In 2011, Caucasian students achieved an 89.8 proficiency rate on reading, while African American students achieved a 54 proficiency rate.

"These schools showed the highest percentage of students scoring at grade level or better, despite having a high number of children living in poverty."

"The District's government-wide total revenues were approximately $638 million for the year ended June 30, 2011."

Geographic and population density characteristics of Minnesota school districts.

Pupil membership and cost per pupil for Minnesota charter schools.

Pupil membership and cost per pupil for Minnesota independent school districts.

This chart provides membership and other details for Minnesota's independent school districts.

"As of July 31, 2011, there were 147 charter schools operating in Minnesota serving an estimated 41,470 students."

"Schools are highly resource dependent, but they are not dependent on a single source. The distribution of revenue-raising responsibility over federal, state, and local governments contributes to education revenue stability (see Figure 4)."

This chart compares Minnesota education spending with that of the U.S. average.

Enrollment in Minnesota schools by type 1989-2001.

"The dollar amount per pupil unit used to calculate each district's basic general education revenue - the 'front end' of the formula. The formula allowance for fiscal year 2011 is $5,124."

"Percentage of 3rd grade students that meet or exceed proficiency on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA-II) reading exam..., given in the spring."

"Figure 1 above demonstrates that busing for racial balance in Minneapolis did not reduce the achievement gap in the 14 years between 1982 and 1996."

This chart gives the total enrollment numbers and racial breakdowns for Minneapolis Public Schools from 1981-2011.

"Total cost of all programs and services was $602.1 million in fiscal 2011."

"Total General Fund expenditures increased $8.4 million or 1.7% from the previous year."

"The General Fund includes the primary operations of the District in providing educational services to students from kindergarten through grade 12 including pupil transportation activities and capital outlay projects."

"A school district may levy for a fixed amount of money. This amount is spread across the real estate in the city."

"Over the last nine years, the District has experienced a decrease in average daily membership after peaking at 50,211 in 2001. However, it is anticipated that this trend is stabilizing."

In 2011, every demographic category in the Minneapolis school district except for White students failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in math and reading.

This chart demonstrates how the percentage of free and reduced lunch recipients in the Minneapolis Public Schools has grown from 39% in 1985 to 66% in 2010.

This chart shows the demographics in Minneapolis Public Schools from 1981-2011.

This chart lists Minneapolis public school buildings, their locations, and the years of their construction.

This chart lists each school in the Minneapolis Public School district and breaks down each school's enrollment by race and ethnicity.

Between the 2006-07 and the 2008-09 school year, Minneapolis Asian and White student math progress decreased.

"[Minnesota schools'] total enrollment history and projections for the period from 1959-60 to 2014-15."

This chart lists the percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch at each school in the Minneapolis Public School district.

"Table 1 shows the exit classification codes assigned to both dropouts and non-dropouts through the end of the academic year."

"The MPS dropout challenge becomes more apparent when considered by ethnic groups and other demographic characteristics."

This chart divides Minneapolis kindergarteners by race in order to depict their total literacy after their first year of school.

According to this chart, the achievement gap in terms of reading proficiency between white and minority students in Minneapolis public schools is at least 30 percentage points.

"MPS MCAII (State Test) Reading proficiency increased 4% compared to 2010 and increased 5% over the past two years."

Rank and scores of the states for the Federal Department of Education Race to the Top program phase 1.

"[Minnesota schools'] total enrollment history and projections for the period from 1959-60 to 2014-15."

"For 2011, Florida received the highest overall teacher policy grade with a B, and three other states – Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Tennessee – earned B minuses."

"Figure 2.4 shows the demographic characteristics for three student subgroups: traditional students (students not enrolled in alternative education), students enrolled in any amount or type of alternative education, and students enrolled full time in a single alternative education program."

The AAL represents the present value of projected future benefits earned by employees to date.

This chart compares the ACT scores of Minnesotans with the rest of the nation.

This chart breaks down Minnesota's budget forecast for the 2012-13 biennium. At 40%, education services receive the largest portion of the budget.

Analysis Report White Paper

This fifth annual edition of the Yearbook documents more changes in state teacher policy than NCTQ has seen in any of its previous top-to-bottom reviews of the laws and regulations governing the teaching profession in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

For almost two decades, Minnesota has experienced significant growth in a number of new and different educational choices, new schools and new educational programs—both inside and outside the traditional district setting. These trends are documented in the bar graph below.

The following account of the Educational Land Policy of the United States, and of the disposition of the Congressional land grants in Minnesota are printed in advance of the report, not only to diffuse information, but to indicate the nature of the statistics that the Department desires to receive.

"The purpose of this study is to examine the participation rates of SES (Supplemental Educational Services) in MPS and the effectiveness of SES in improving academic achievement."

"There is no clear public policy route for improving the educational performance of poor minority children, as family socioeconomic status remains more influential than school strategies. Effective ways to help these children must be found."

EXACTLY A CENTURY has passed since Harriet Bishop left the comforts of her home in Vermont to enter the rough wilderness of the Northwest and inaugurate the earliest program of organized education in Minnesota. In the spring of 1847 she was one of a small group of New England women who had attended high school and received preparation for teaching.

"This historic context study spans more than a hundred years and the approximately 140 buildings constructed, acquired, maintained, expanded, and sometimes removed by the Minneapolis Board of Education between 1849 and 1962."

Southeast Alternatives (SEA) consisted of five schools in the West Area, Southeast Cluster, of the Minneapolis Public Schools. The project was administered by Minneapolis Public Schools under a grant from the United States Office of Education.

This report contains a large variety of charts and data on reading and math proficiency in Minneapolis public schools.

Provides information based on multiple data sources, including: a review of charter school documents from the Minnesota Department of Education; survey data collected in 1994 from superintendents, school board members, and parents; and site visits to those charter schools that were operating in early 1994.

This piece offers a collection of graphs which show the 2008-2010 achievement gaps for various districts around the state of Minnesota. The Minneapolis school district often stands out from the rest of the districts, unfortunately for undesirable reasons.

"The purpose of this report is to provide a comprehensive data-driven understanding of MPS' dropout rates, trends and an analysis of the indicators and 'early warning signs' that most accurately identify the population of students most at-risk for dropout."

"This baseline data report is designed to be used by The Minneapolis Foundation staff as well as board members, community leaders, and policy makers to learn more about the areas of education, economic vitality, and social capital for the city of Minneapolis, based upon key indicators."

"Minnesota’s continued democratic vitality and economic health will depend in large measure on our ability to put in place education reforms that will help poor, minority children boost their performance in school."

Although economists have officially declared the 'Great Recession' to be over, the nation and states continue to struggle back from the most severe economic downturn in generations and face new challenges in delivering a high-quality education to all students, according to Education Week’s annual education report card.

ALEC’s 17th edition of the Report Card on American Education contains a comprehensive overview of educational achievement levels (performance and gains for low-income students) for the 50 states and the District of Columbia (see full report for complete methodology).

"Over time, reporting requirements for school districts have expanded. School districts in Minnesota are required to identify and track homeless students in each school, and report their school attendance and academic assessment results to the Minnesota Department of Education."

"Minneapolis Schools have been named by a variety of means: by the governing few on the school board; by individual, neighborhood or PTA petitions; and finally by public referendum. The majority did not always rule!"

The result of a five year project on alternative schools within the public school system of Minneapolis, Minnesota, this report provides a complete description of the project from the pre-planning and proposal stage through the final evaluation.

This report reveals the disturbing extent of school segregation in the Twin Cities region, and describes segregation's harms to children and the region. It is a wake-up call to all of us.

The Nation’s Report Card informs the public about the academic achievement of elementary and secondary students in the United States. Report cards communicate the findings of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a continuing and nationally representative measure of achievement in various subjects over time.

The Nation’s Report Card informs the public about the academic achievement of elementary and secondary students in the United States. Report cards communicate the findings of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a continuing and nationally representative measure of achievement in various subjects over time.

This piece gives readers a brief history lesson on public school funding/spending, specifically focusing on the rising involvement of state and federal governments as compared to local. Peng and Guthrie also study past funding levels and then project an estimated spending amount per student in the next decade.


"June's Stone Arch discussion was an important and reflective conversation with Pam Costain and Chris Stewart.  First reflecting on Minneapolis District's condition upon being elected, then moving on to other challenges.  Specifically, the challenge of being an effective School Board Director.  Perhaps the most provocative item early on was former Director Costain's...

"Arts Integration is a proven teaching strategy critical to the success of Minneapolis Public Schools students. By using arts-based techniques to engage the whole child in learning a variety of subjects, Arts Integration helps to propel students to greater academic achievement and to develop well-rounded global citizens."

"District staff explain why Lyndale Elementary School is perhaps the highest achieving school within the MPS district." According to the speakers, Lyndale's students are almost reaching a 50% academic achievement level.

In a visit to Minneapolis' South High School, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discussed achievement gap and other education related issues, including college attendance and the FAFSA process.

"Increased enrollment in Minneapolis public schools will require some schools that have closed in the past five years to reopen in order to maintain capacity. Some parents are advocating a 'big picture' approach and focusing on what is best for students and the district as a whole."

"For a decade, 'No Child Left Behind' has been a staple of American education reform. But on Thursday, Minnesota became one of ten states that will soon be allowed to enact its own policies.

After President Obama announced the exemptions, many educators welcomed the news. But they're wondering what comes next."

"The Minnesota Taxpayers Association recently completed a study of Minnesota's largest public pension funds and found that many are drastically under-funded to the tune of billions of dollars.

The worst case scenario is the Minneapolis Teacher's Fund - facing bankruptcy in a few years without a bailout from taxpayers."

"Minnesota 2020's Joe Sheeran visits a Minneapolis school board meeting."

Produced for the Minneapolis Public School system, this video demonstrates the type of teaching that goes on in an English and Language Arts classroom.

"Minneapolis School Board Directors Jill Davis & Jenny Arneson talk about challenges and strengths of the Minneapolis Public Schools and respond to questions from an interested audience."

This video documents the opinions of parents and students on the benefits of the Minneapolis Public School system.

In a testimony before the Minnesota House Education Finance committee, Minneapolis school board member Alberto Monserrate declares that charter schools and vouchers generally do not solve the education problems that Minnesota faces.

Produced by the Minneapolis Public School system, this short video briefly explains and extols the teachers, students, curricula, and mission of the MPS school system.

Primary Document

"Underlying every educational problem is the financial one, that of school support. Adequate buildings, better trained teachers, a more vital curriculum can be provided only as sufficient revenues are, first, furnished and, second, distributed in a manner to secure results commensurate with expenditure. Indeed, there is little doubt that a large proportion of the educational difficulties...

"The biennial Legislature of Minnesota in April, 1913, created a Public Education Commission 'to make careful study and investigation of conditions in this state with respect to public education, including the public school system and public educational institutions, and the relation of the educational institutions one to another and to the public school system; to recommend a general plan for...

This piece offers a variety of graphs which chart the racial achievement gaps between students in Minneapolis public schools.

"In 2009, approximately 150,000 Minnesota public school students enrolled in alternative education programs. These programs ranged from area learning centers that served high school students full time in stand-alone facilities, to 'targeted services' that served elementary school students in before- or after-school programs. Most students enrolled in alternative education programs—75 percent—...

"We have audited the accompanying financial statements of the governmental activities, each major fund and the aggregate remaining fund information of Special School District No. 1, Minneapolis, Minnesota as of and for the year ended June 30, 2011, which collectively comprise the District’s basic financial statements as listed in the table of contents. These financial statements are the...

"This is an appeal by public school authorities of Minneapolis, Minnesota, ... from an order entered on May 22, 1978 by District (now Senior) Judge Earl R. Larson of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota in a school integration suit commenced in 1971 by and on behalf of Negro students residing in the District. Plaintiffs were permitted to maintain the action as a class...

This document contains the Minnesota Department of Education's records on its various funding sources and expenditures for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.

This document contains the Minnesota Department of Education's records on its various funding sources and expenditures for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years.

This document contains the Minnesota Department of Education's records on its various funding sources and expenditures for the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years.

This document contains the Minnesota Department of Education's records on its various funding sources and expenditures for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years.

This document contains the Minnesota Department of Education's records on its various funding sources and expenditures for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years.

"The public school system of Minnesota has from the first been unified in the department of public instruction.

The first Territorial legislature (1849) enacted a school code, in which provision was made for the appointment of a 'superintendent of common schools' by the governor, to serve for a term of two years.

Upon the adoption of the State constitution the second State...

"In a major step toward real reform for Minnesota students, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius joined President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan in Washington today for the announcement that Minnesota will receive a waiver from the requirements of the federal education law commonly known as 'No Child Left Behind.' The waiver will allow the state to begin implementing a more...

"The financing of elementary and secondary education in Minnesota comes through a combination of state-collected taxes (primarily income and sales) and locally collected property taxes. Revenue to school districts is received in three major categories, all of which are described in greater detail in this booklet."

Specifically focusing on education, this document explains the allocation of Minnesota's monetary resources for the 2010-11 school year.

Specifically focusing on education, this document explains the allocation of Minnesota's monetary resources. At 40%, education receives the largest portion of the state's budget.

"This compilation contains the general laws of Minnesota of practical use and application relating to the public schools. The General Statutes of 1913 are taken as the basis, and to them have been added all subsequent laws and amendments.

The laws have been arranged by subjects, and the sections numbered consecutively. At the foot of each section is given the number of the section of...

"I was pleased to learn on February 9 that Minnesota is among the 10 states selected to receive Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility. We applaud President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius for their advocacy and leadership in moving toward a meaningful system of school improvement accountability."

This report documents the Minneapolis Public School district's Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

"The goal of school discipline is to teach students to behave in ways that contribute to academic achievement and school success and to support a school environment where students and staff are responsible and respectful. Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) expects all students to be active learners and responsible members of their learning community."

"Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) was awarded a 5‐year grant by the U.S. Department of Education for a Small Learning Communities (SLC) project that was implemented in its seven comprehensive high schools. The funding period began in July 2005 and ended in July 2010. Two main goals were established for the project. Goal 1 was to close the achievement gap between students of color and White...

"The state tests administered each spring measure student progress on Minnesota’s Academic Standards and English Language Proficiency Standards. We have developed this Minnesota Assessment Interpretive Guide to help educators better understand the results from these tests.

The guide contains information on how to read the reports and interpret the data from these tests. Once you have...

Beginning with the creation of the Minnesota public school system, this document covers the financial history of Minnesota education from 1849 to 2011.

"The Minnesota school finance system is the method by which funds are provided to operate public elementary and secondary schools. The bulk of state support for elementary and secondary education is distributed to school districts through the general education revenue program, which provides money for the current operating expenditures of the districts. The remaining portion of the state’s...

"We, the people of the state of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its blessings and secure the same to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution."

This report provides a variety of statistics from schools on the north side of Minneapolis including attendance, math and reading scores, and suspension rates.

This book includes records of itemized expenditures for public schools in Minneapolis from 1896. Among other things, the report also includes school enrollment information.

"This Manual for High Schools is published as a help to both teachers and scholars. It presents, in a clear and methodical way, good methods of teaching three leading branches of knowledge, — language, science, and mathematics. It contains also, for teachers and for pupils, special articles prepared by experienced instructors and containing much wholesome advice in the highest degree...

"The desegregation of the Minneapolis, Minnesota, schools (Special School District No. 1) was initiated in 1972, although the process leading to desegregation actually began in 1967 when the board of education adopted its first human relations guidelines and announced a voluntary urban transfer program. ... In 1970 the State of Minnesota issued desegregation guidelines which set a 30 percent...

"The purpose of this report is to provide updated information on actuarial accrued liabilities as they relate to Other Postemployment Benefits (OPEB) for school districts in Minnesota."

This report compares the MCA-II and MCA-III math and reading scores in the Minneapolis School District with those of the rest of Minnesota.

"An attempt is made in this paper to set forth the attitude of the several states as regards the encouragement of secondary education through the granting of special subsidies to the middle schools. As this inquiry covers the period from the establishment of the earliest secondary schools in this country down to the present tune, it is made to deal more particularly with systems of state aid...

"Summaries are prepared by the Minnesota Department of Education of the state session laws passed each year. Each year’s summaries include a detailed review of the 'education omnibus act' as well as a more abbreviated summary of other education-related laws passed during the year."

"It is my honor to be invited to testify here today on what remains the most pressing issue confronting our nation’s schools: racial segregation and the poverty concentration that inevitably follows it.

As to this pressing issue, the state of Minnesota and its local school districts confront three distinct legal questions and a single significant policy question. The legal issues are: 1...

This book includes records of itemized expenditures for public schools in Minneapolis from 1908. Among other things, the report also includes school enrollment information.

This book includes records of itemized expenditures for public schools in Minneapolis from 1911. Among other things, the report also includes school enrollment information.

"Property taxes include taxes to support the school district, the city and the county. Property tax levies are one source of funding for the Minneapolis Public Schools.

There are two kinds of levies:
1. A referendum, or voter-approved levy
2. A levy set by the Board of Education within limits established by the state

School levies are based on a number of factors that...



This FAQ provides some background on education in Minnesota, which in turn will help one to understand today's state of education.